Public Affairs: Soap Box - John Lehal, managing director, Insight Public Affairs

The recently announced 'Strategic Relations' initiative, or 'Ministerial Buddy Scheme', has already proved to be a bit of a PR disaster for the Government.

The scheme is supposed to allow a select band of companies greater direct access to key ministers. Alas, those not on the list have been left perplexed as to why they are not one of the chosen few, while some of those chosen have stated that access to ministers has never been a problem.

Do companies such as Google and Microsoft need to be provided with special access to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport? I am sure that Jeremy Hunt would be more than willing to listen to such organisations. More worrying is what message does it send to companies with a smaller market capitalisation? Those who are not the market leaders; those in the FTSE 250 that are hugely important to the economy but do not already have the ear of government.

What provision is being made for them to have access to policy makers? And what about small businesses, the engine room of the economy? They have no 'special' access, yet they are the firms that are often the hardest hit during times of economic downturn.

The Government, of course, has suggested this is the first phase of a scheme that is likely to be expanded.

This suggests more companies with special access, but is this really the way forward?

Given that the much anticipated consultation on lobbying comes out this month, it really is not helpful to cherry-pick those who will be granted access, while others are left out in the cold.

Instead of implementing a scheme that is seen as little more than a gimmick, the Government would be better advised to ensure ministers - including the Treasury, which is notoriously difficult to navigate - provide regular access to business if it really wants to engage with the wealth creators of UK plc.

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